Articles written in March, 2009

March 31 2009

Implementing Basic Accessibility


In my last post I discussed accessibility and the web and gave some good reasons why you should deliberately include disabled users as part of you target market.

As I’ve suggested previously, when you design your pages with accessibility in mind by using current web standards, you will go a long way toward enhancing the SEO quality of your pages as well. In addition, you also increase the flexibility of your HTML code to allow more complex and forward-thinking visual and interface design.

One important suggestion is to first design your pages and site as a whole without any styling applied, i.e. black text on a white background. To clarify, do not use any CSS, whether it’s inline or in it’s own file, but do use appropriate and current HTML tags in a semantic, consistent manner.

Don’t forget that you need to choose a DOCTYPE declaration and place it at the very beginning of the HTML document, before the tag. Make sure the HTML you use is supported by the DOCTYPE you plan to use. A good resource about DOCTYPE declarations is the A List Apart article, “Fix Your Site With the Right DOCTYPE!”

The reason I’m suggesting that you don’t use special styling or formatting at the beginning is so that you can make sure that the content on your page can be quickly glanced over and understood using only the formatting the browser supplies to the various tags (e.g. the h1 through h6, the ul, the a, the table and caption tags). With no special formatting applied, all the content will flow down the page, one section or tag after the other. This will ensure that assistive devices will have a much easier time understanding what you meant. Ask another person to identify the different sections of your page, such as the main and secondary navigation, header, side bars, main content and so on.

The next suggestion goes hand-in-hand with the previous suggestion: you need to be able to understand the content of all imagery on the page even after having turned off images. One easy way to turn off images is to download the Web Developer Toolbar add-on for Firefox via MoreVisibility’s Online Marketing Tools & Resources page. The Web Developer Toolbar also allows you to easily turn off all styling in a document.) For all images and/or media that is part of the content of the page, there should be a matching textual description. For regular images, you must at least use the “alt” attribute. Additionally, you can choose to use the “longdesc” and/or “title” attributes to help parlay the meaning of the imagery.

Consider using closed captioning on any videos. You can add closed captioning to the YouTube videos you want to embed in your pages. This does not take the place of a textual description in the HTML of the video, but adds to the interactivity, especially if the viewer is deaf or must play the video with no sound. The sentences in the closed captioning can be set to show during the appropriate time in the video, increasing receptivity and comprehension when compared to the entire script of the video being read before or after the video plays.

My last suggestion is that you validate your HTML using a validation engine, specifically the W3C validator. This will help to make sure that you are not using any obsolete or non-standard coding that might trip up assistive devices such as screen reader.

Please come back and read my next post in which I will give tips on adding accessibility to more complex pages.

March 25 2009

Opportunities for Businesses on Twitter


By this point, most of us have at least heard of Twitter and are somewhat familiar with this fast growing, micro-blogging website. Even though I am not as active on Twitter as many of those that I am following, I do enjoy listening to the conversations and am intrigued by the growth potential of this channel. Did you know that Twitter grew by 1,689% from February 2008 to February 2009, as reported by Nielsen Online?

One of the most interesting aspects of Twitter is how businesses can connect with people on a different level.   As many businesses moved to Facebook over the last few years, just as many businesses seem to be creating a presence on Twitter, and there is proof that it’s working.

A manager at a café in Houston, Texas began using Twitter and says that as a result, his clientele has nearly doubled. When they began using Twitter they were unsure of what to expect, but have been astounded by the results.   The café hosted a “Tweetup” where about 100 people came to socialize with other locals, and of course, those who attended purchased food and drinks from the café.  

The same café said that they’ve also placed orders on Twitter. Imagine working on a project or catching up on emails, and instead of stopping what you’re doing to wait in line for a cup of coffee, you could send a Direct Message to place your order. Think about the opportunities!

Social media has become a critical component for many businesses, and it’s fascinating to see that social media marketing is now moving offline where individuals can meet each other and build personal relationships.

With that said, there are a few things that anyone managing a Twitter account for their business should take into consideration.   First, as well all know, social media is about making personal connections.   It’s not a place for you to blatantly promote yourself or your brand.   While everyone is aware that Twitter and other social media channels are part of many marketing strategies, in order to be successful, you must add value.   The way for businesses to succeed in any social network is through giving advice, providing resources and generating discussions with others. Also, don’t be afraid to share non-business information. Zappos is great at this.   And, most importantly, listen. Twitter is an ideal place to learn what others are saying about you and your brand. You may be surprised what you hear.

Posted in: Offsite SEO

March 23 2009

What Are Some Good Methods For Keyword Research?


Keyword research can be quite a laborious task. Keyword research allows those attempting to optimize their site for search engines to increase their reach for multiple search terms. It may, at first, seem like a reasonably simple task to match a two to four word phrase to each of the most important pages on the website. That is not the case, however. The keywords you pick are extremely crucial as the query a searcher enters weighs very heavily. Here are some tried and true methods for making keyword research for your website a little easier:

– Brainstorm a number of keywords you would like to target for all of your most important pages on the site.
– Once you have compiled that list, research them to see which ones are the most searched and the least competitive.
– Utilize tools such as Wordtracker, Trellian and the free Google Adwords Keyword Tool to discover a keyword’s popularity and add to your list by seeing possible alternatives to your keywords.

Of course, once you have compiled the list of the most valuable keywords with the free tools, it is not the end of the process. There is no “magic bullet” that will pick the most appropriate keywords for your site. Picking the right word for a page also takes a fair amount of knowledge about the product or service your website is providing and sometimes just good common sense and experience with your field can make all of the difference.

On a final note, it is very important to not just choose words that are really popular. The higher searched a term, the more likely it is to be very competitive. This can be tricky, because if a keyword is not popular enough, what are the chances that you will be able to get that precious organic traffic to your site? Always keep the searcher in mind when researching and find the closest match. Once those keywords are selected and you are ready to make the changes to your pages, add them to all the pertinent places on the page for the most optimal results. The key areas to add your targeted primary keyphrases are in the meta data (titles, descriptions and keywords) and in the content of the page. Try to get the primary keyphrase to a keyword density (what is the total occurrence of the keyword in relation to the content) of 3-4%. Of course, the longer the keyphrase is, the harder it will be to utilize in the content and still have it make sense. For “longer-tail” keyphrases, a keyword density of around 1-3% would suffice.

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